Sunday, May 31, 2009


My roommate is moving, summer is here, and the time has come again for me to get a little stir crazy. I start looking at college catalogs this time of the year, every year, in hopes of finding some Masters program, or perhaps a program for a second bachelors degree that suits my interests, my hopes, and my needs. My problem is not that I can't find anything I want to do, but that everything I find is something I want to do. I spent the morning drooling over a few course cataloges I have amassed over the years, and folding and unfolding corners of pages for classes I want to take. I finally decided to make a list of everything, regardless of how reasonable it seemed, and to put it in order of priority. These are the classes I dream of mastering, and as you can see, they do not lead in any particular direction whatsoever. even putting them in a prioritized order is causing the pit of my stomach to hollow out with anxiety. I keep having to ask myself if I am putting it in order according to what I want or according to what is responsible. I keep re-ordering them both ways. Here it is, according to what I want. Now who wants to volunteer to pay my tuition for me?

  • Beginning Italian
  • Chemistry (Have to admit I've actually taken this one several times, I just really really really want to pass it.)
  • Technical writing
  • Humanities
  • Tap Dance
  • Accounting
  • Organ Lessons
  • Photography
  • Anatomy/Physiology
  • Culinary Arts
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Children's Literature
  • Personality Theory
  • Computer Engineering (Just an intro course)
  • Linguistics
  • Business (again just an intro course, and perhaps an entrpreneurship class)
  • Tailoring/Costuming
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Beginning Social Work
  • Grammar
  • Communications
  • Economics (Just an intro course)
  • Marriage and Family Relations
  • Education (leadership and theory classes)
  • Novel Writing
  • Genetics
  • Organic Chemistry (contingent of course on whether or not I can ever pass a chemistry class)
  • Genetics
  • Oil Painting
  • Philosophy

You see, the problem I have is that I simply do not know enough about anything. And as I frantically search for a new roommate with the plan of settling into and staying in the same old routine, there is this nagging sound at the back of my brain and at the front of my heart. Go back to school, you aren't getting any closer to your goals and you certainly aren't getting younger. But how? I can't see the end from the beginning. Heck I can't even see the beginning from the beginning. And even if I did manage to get back to school and make progress towards that elusive Masters Degree, you should see that list of possibilities.... It's even longer than the list of classes I want to take. And the hollow in my stomach is just getting deeper and more painful.

With Roomie leaving, this would be the perfect time to just pick up and start something new. But with the job situation the way it is, it seems pretty irresponsible to do that without any sort of a plan. And the arguing in my head is getting louder and the pit in my stomach is getting deeper. Life used to be so straightforward. What happened?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Peace, Yes, Rest, Not on your Life

There are some people that you just know will never rest. Not in this life or the next. And I have come to believe that those who continue working are the blessed who will find peace up there. It's the people who pass on with every intention of finding rest that my never actually find peace. After all, how peaceful can an eternity of floating around on a cloud watching everyone else really be? It sounds to me a bit like the life of a gossip. Which is not in fact restful at all, but full of emotional tension and working their jaw in an attempt to befriend everyone and love no one. But those who work, especially those who continue their work once their pathway takes them away from us, they are the few who actually find some peace in eternity. Theirs is the business of loving without the pressure of others perceptions, because they in fact gain that perfect perception that relieves them of the emotional work that really gets us down.

Too much at once? Let me explain. Have you ever taken a "stress day" from work and found yourself going a little stir crazy before you get an hour into your freedom? Have you ever passed your children off to someone for an afternoon in the hopes of finding some peace and quiet, and instead found that without having them in earshot you can get no peace at all? These are the things that make me wonder about the cartoon image of heaven, sitting on a cloud strumming a harp for all of eternity. How can anyone enjoy that? Sure it might be nice for a few years, but by the time you have mastered it and become bored with it and written your own harp improvisations for every melody you ever heard (Gun's N' Roses, unplugged and angelic?) you will be tearing your halo off begging for an opportunity to go raise a little hell (literally, probably...) Eternity is a long long long time to be stuck with a harp on a cloud. You might last longer if you make the brass ensemble (they have a few more engagements scheduled in the upcoming millenia) but eventually even a Trumpet voluntary will become bland and distasteful to you. But consider if you actually pressed on into that next life with a variety of tasks and purposes to pursue. Imagine you can move forward with some knowledge and a preparedness for any assignment. Imagine if instead of being handed a harp and assigned a cloud, you could be handed a "To Do" list and assigned a stewardship. And this isn't any "To Do" list. It contains far more important duties than the mundane survival tasks we have here, and it comes with that promise and perspective that not only is your list significant and important, but it is pertaining to people and things that you actually love. Rest from triviality, perhaps, but work and all the strength to accomplish it still the same.

The Stake President who helped me fill out my mission papers passed away yesterday. He was and is a giant among men. More than a scholar and an author, he taught me and those around me some wonderful and profound lessons. Every time I had opportunity to interact with him he left me both introspective and improved. When we met for my mission interviews, he initially encouraged me to stay home from my mission for a few silly reasons, but then as the interview progressed he began to both teach and encourage me. By the time he signed my papers he had not only soothed my fears and concerns regarding my ability to be a good missionary, his confidence in me had convinced me that I could be better than I ever imagined possible. He had a gentle laugh that put me at ease and yet an ability to correct that encouraged repentance. And the thing that stuck out to me the most was his encouragement and enthusiasm for work. "Sister Pratt, I only want missionaries who understood the value of work. You understand it, and you will be a valuable missionary to your mission president because of it. And you will be happier for it as well."

There was absolutely nothing conditional in his statement to me. He didn't tell me "if"or ask that I try, he simply stated that I was capable and would find happiness. And he was right. I was capable, and I did find happiness. And I am capable, and I will find happiness. Not if.

When I arrived in my mission, my mission president told me he was impressed by the recommendation that I received from my stake president, and at the time I brushed it off as owing to this man's impressive credentials. But as I pressed forward throughout my mission and I lived up to that recommendation, I learned to trust the text more than the signature. And I found more than happiness in work. I found peace.

So as President Madsen embarks on his new portion of this journey I am one random student that passed though his office a few times and tried to serve as well as he thought I could. And I don't believe it is appropriate to wish him the traditional "Rest in Peace". Because I know he won't rest. There are no harp laden clouds waiting for men such as this. Instead, my prayer is that his to do list will be eternally filled with meaning and power. As surely as he taught me there is peace in work, I have no doubt that he will Work in Peace.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weddings, Dear Friends, and Paris

This is a picture we took just for you, Leona-

We're only 75% of the bird girls, and we couldn't remember a single bit of our choreography, so you'll have to settle for some cute shoes and all our love.

Yes, we were all at a wedding and looking fantastic. This was I think the last wedding from that circle of friends that came to me as a result of the most fantastic summer of my life. We did Seussical, we forged great friendships, I moved to Minnesota and the rest of everyone got married. Ann Marie wasn't in Seussical with us, but she was a roommate in that house where I ended up moving and we all got to be so close. Ann Marie was the Bride on this lovely day:

And it was absolutely perfect. 70 degrees and sunny and a light breeze and the best part of all was hanging out with those wonderful friends. Even if they didn't want their picture taken...

And I should take this moment to say thank you to the grandma's that take care of little ones so that I can play with their mommies and daddies for a day. I know you didn't do it for me, but I sure am a grateful recipient anyways. It truly was a day that recalled all the good moments of that summer.

We danced

Even I danced, although I have no pictures and I'm not sure that any of the pictures that were taken should ever be seen by the general public....

And we ate. And we laughed. (I think our table at the luncheon was perhaps too loud, but the reminiscing and the fun was just so good...)

And I cried.

I didn't cry during the ceremony, which was one of the most beautiful I have attended. No, just like usual, mine was the only dry eye in the room.

I didn't cry because all of my friends are so happily married and I stick out like a sore thumb or a seventh wheel everytime we do something together. I'm actually pretty happy with life, and don't mind one bit being the spare with a group of people that don't mind having one.

I didn't cry when I saw old friends and held their babies and shared litttle bits of their happiness.

I didn't cry when I saw people whose friendships I may have lost due to some neglect or stupidity I have committed.

I didn't cry when I saw some of the sorrows that my firnds have endured in the past 3 years either.

I cried when he told me he was taking her to Paris.

And it was kind of awkward, because nobody there had ever seen me cry before. So I feel like I owe you an explanation. And now that I am in the privacy of my home, where I can cry without making you feel strange at having to see, I will tell you something about my tears.

Paris is an important thing to me. For all that it represents as far as pop culture goes, I couldn't care less, and for all that it was to me as a missionary I don't expect anyone else to appreciate. But there is a part of Paris that is perhaps born of bits of each of those things that everyone should experience. Maybe not Paris itself. And maybe not as a missionary. But the happiness, definitely. And when I say "Paris", recognize that I might not be talking about a specific location or a certain calling to fulfill, but I am talking about what that specific combination created for me. I was happy in Paris. I'm not telling you this because of some lack of happiness now, just that what was then was then and it was good. I was really happy there and it had everything to do with having a purpose to my life that was so much more than mere survival. I was happy there because I had a job to do and I had no insecurities whatsoever about the importance of that job nor about my ability to accomplish it. I was also happy there because I knew what I was doing and how to do it. Because I was meeting my own expectations for myself. And also, because I understood the culture and the people and the beauty of that place. And somehow, the art and the culture and the expectations and the work and even the perceptions of people around me brought me to a better understanding of myself. You know the movie Sabrina? When she comes back home and is seeing the old town again and the old people again and she simply says "I found myself in Paris". Well I know exactly what she means. I got to know myself in Paris. I made important decisions about who I want to be in Paris. I learned that it was possible to be that person in Paris. I still believe to this day that I can become that person, because of Paris. But I am less sure now that I can do it without Paris.

Which is why the tears came to my eyes when he said "I'm taking her to Paris". Because I miss it. I miss that surety of every step that came with Paris for me. And while I'm pretty sure that everyone's Paris is something and someplace different, my Paris is Paris. And as a result of that, I feel like Paris is mine. So my tears at that moment were little more than a touch of jealousy, a wish for something I feel like I've lost and a hope for something I haven't ever had. I want somebody to take me to Paris.

Of course, I got over it by changing the subject and pretending like the tears never happened. It takes a certain kind of strength to maintain emotional constipation for as many years as I have. If you catch me by surprise, you might see it again, but you would have to be watching pretty closely.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Irish Queen

I love making a quilt. I'm not great at it, but I find something soothing about the math and the geometry and the labor. Throw in the fun of color selection and that sense of satisfaction you get when you create something, and you have a pasttime that can easily transform mindless tv time into legitimate function and useful hours. Everyone should have something like this. I know people that might do needlework or crochet or any hands on type project. There is something emotionally cathartic about the creation process, and it helps immensely if you aren't spending the time actually thinking about the emotions or the day or the bills or the complexities of life.

The problem with making a quilt, though, is that I won't actually force myself to sit down and enjoy doing it unless I have a purpose and a deadline. Otherwise, I can't justify doing something that I enjoy. And having a deadline takes away a little of the enjoyment. Its a bit of a catch 22, but I can overcome it easily if I love someone enough and have the proximity/time/money to focus on it. I have to put that disclaimer in here, because there are a number of people that I love to bits for whom I was not able to do a quilt. And I still kind of regret that.

But this is not about regrets! This is about success!

There is one quilt pattern that I am more familiar with, simply by right of having used it more often. I particularly like it because it looks way more complex than it is. ...uh, I mean, It is really complex and really really hard? Nope. I can't really lie here. This is easier than it looks. And it covers some of my faults as a quilter. I am terrible at matching up corners. No worries! There are so many corners on this that a few are bound to match up! And the pieces are so tiny, nobody should hold you accountable for matching ALL the corners. If I actually try to, I end up wanting to quit halfway through, making a ridiculously complex wall hanging or baby quilt instead of a queen size masterpiece.

Precision is not my gift. Endurance, yes. Accuracy, No.

So of course, if I am making a quilt, I would be excited to learn a new pattern, but I certainly won't discourage you if you say "remember that quilt you made for Brittany and Bryan?..." Because familiar territory is certainly easier to navigate. Even if it does involve little tiny 2 inch squares assembled into a queen size pattern.

It's called an "Irish Chain" but I had yet to do it as a true Irish Chain. You can vary with whatever colors you want, and most people have their own ideas as to the colors and themes, but a true Irish Chain is done in greens. And this time, with a wedding themed in green, and a bride who preferred the pattern she has already seen me do, I finally had motive and opportunity. And so a few months before the wedding I wentout and bought all the green necessary...

And for a month or so I procrastinated.

And then for a week or two I worked on it here and there

And then for another week of worked on it every evening I had available

And then for another week I cancelled everything else and spent every spare minute on it

And then for a week I stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning every night until Friday rolled aong, and I had this:
Which was just finished enough to display like this:

Which was how everyone else saw it before I took it back home to actually finish it.

And it is still sitting on my living room floor, needing only about another hour worth of work. But you see, now I don't have a deadline anymore...

Fourteen Pieces of Bacon

Work is exhausting. I know, I know, everyone's job has its ups and downs, everyone has some amount of stress and some amout of emotion, and well, let's face it, work is work, otherwise why would get paid for it? Granted, my job is one that most of the people who perform it well don't get actually paid to do. But you multiply what a stay-at home mom does times 20 children and subtract the sleepless nights and gorcery store runs, and emotional reward of them being your own kids, and you have the reason I get paid to do my job. By the time I walk into the classroom in the morning my head is already ringing with whining and tantrums. By the time we head out for recess, I need to be outside as much as the kids do, and by the time my lunch break comes around, I can't actually accomplish anything, I just need a little food and some sleep. I could run down to where foothill turns into 4th south and have my pick of any number of restaurants and food choices. I could run over to Sugarhouse for even more options, some of which I crave throughout the day. But there is a little sandwich shop immediately accross the sidewalk from my building, and I am afraid they have had my business since the first week I worked here. It is ridiculously priced. A cheese quesadilla is considered a grill item, and costs $6. I make cheese quesadillas at home sometimes, I know that I could make at least 45 cheese quesadillas for $6. and that's not the least of it. But a 32 oz refill of Dr. Pepper is only 70 cents, and so I tote my water bottle along and one day a week I allow myself to have that 32 oz goodness. And a half an egg salad sandwich on wheat bread is only $2.42. And it comes with a pickle. I swear half the time I get that sandwich, I am paying for the garlicky crunch of a deli pickle. I don't care how many commercials claim that they are selling deli pickles at the grocery story, they have got nothing on a real deli pickle. It's like the difference between pre-bottled Dr Pepper and Fountain Drink Dr Pepper. That stuff in a can is an entirely different beast than the stuff that comes freshly mixed. Occasionally, depending on who makes my sandwich, I get 2 pickles. If its the old lady, she usually forgets my pickle, but if its the scruffy guy or the tall girl, I get 2 pickles. Joy of joys. I don't know why some of the people there seem to like me, but I can accept the double pickle days as an offer of friendship and validation.

Work also has become more interesting lately. Someone dared compliment me on "lightening up" lately. I was appalled. Here was a person that had never once spoken to me, never extended an offer of friendship, and had shot me down everytime I tried to converse with her. She was one of the people that would contribute to the awkward silence every time I tried to make a joke the first month I was here, and suddenly she has decided that I have lightened up? My behavior hasn't changed! Because of the people I was working immediately with, she judged me to be prude and judgemental of her (and I will admit that I was working with peole that did treat her that way, although every effort I made towards her was shot down.) Since my immediate co-worker has changed to someone that is in her circle of friends, and since that person has decided she approved of me, then this ringleader of the "popular crowd" has now deigned to offer her approval of me by telling me she was glad I had learned to "lighten up". I felt like I was in high school, which is a nearly unforgiveable abuse in my book. (And especially going into planning a visit with my old co-workers that actually liked me without needing petty social approval, it was a stark contrast) And you can be guaranteed that me and my big passive agressive mouth weren't so generous in returning her feigned compliment. I told her I didn't particularly value her approval, and that although I'm sure it was a nice gesture, it would have been nicer 8 months ago. How's that for "lightening up"?

I left the conversation headed over to the deli for my sandwich and pickle. Of course in the time it took me to cross the sidewalk, I had already over-analyzed the conversation and become even more irritated with her and though of a hundred better things to say in such a situation. If there was ever an ill-timed emotional eating experience, this was it. I stood staring at the menu wondering what I could reasonably consume without shelling out half my life savings and at the same time satisfying the emotional hungry monster that had relocated to my heart.

The Deli was almost closing, the grill was already closed. I was forced to pare down to the deli sandwich menu. (This is a good thing, because I might have allowed myself to spend $7.50 for a chicken quesadilla). My eyes scanned until they came to the BLT. Oh sweet BLT. I do love one on my mom's homemade bread, toasted and with thick tomato slices and crispy crispy bacon. That sounded like exactly what I wanted. One half of a BLT, for $3.68. Perfect. And there was tall girl, my hope for two pickles leaped into my heart. She handed my deli box and I nearly ran out to the privacy of my car to enjoy it in peace.

I hooked my MoTab laden ipod to my radio as I opened the deli box. One Pickle. Hmm. The samdwich seems pretty thick. Did they stuff too much lettuce on there? I prepared to pick off the unnecessary greens. Nope, thats not lettuce, its just alot of bacon. Bacon? Bacon is the sodium of the sanwich. Everyone knows you only put two pieces of bacon on any sandwich. May 3 for a BLT. Its fatty and flavor packed, you don't NEED more. You just always WANT more. I'm not complaining. By no means should anyone ever complain about too much bacon. I can't even believe I just thought that! There is no such thing as too much bacon! I took a bite. Its a good thing I was in the privacy of my car. Do you know why we only put one or two pieces of bacon on a BLT? Remember how it's sort of hard to bite off just a piece of bacon, usually the whole piece comes out of the sandwich? Remember how bacon is mostly fat and sodium, and its sort of hard to really chew it? Most of the bacon came out of the sandwich with that first bite, and I certainly couldn't chew it. Even my big passive agressive mouth couldn't handle that much bacon. I promptly opened the sandwich and began counting the bacon as I pulled it off the sandwich.


Remember how I ordered a half sandwich? This is basic math folks. Think about how many pieces of bacon are in a one pound package of bacon. Think about how much bacon there would have been if I ordered a full sandwich. That's right folks, there is such a thing as too much bacon. You will know if it is hanging out of your mouth and getting mayonaise on your shirt and you can't even taste the tomato.

When I headed back into work, I asked my friend that works the front desk if she had ever ordered a BLT at the Deli. Yes. Was there a reasonable amount of bacon involved? Yes, 3 pieces. Normal, maybe a little stingy for a whole sandwich. OH. Then the kicker. "Sometimes I think I get the sandwiches just for the pickles. I wish they would give me two pickles once in a while."

"They never do?"

"No, not even if I ask."

"Not even scruffy guy or tall girl?"

"No. Why? Do you get two pickles?"

"At least once a week. And my half BLT today had 14 pieces of bacon on it."

"No Fair! They must like you better than they like the rest of us!"

Well maybe they do.

It seems to me that if you are wanting approval from someone, you should get it from the people that make your sandwiches.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bloggitty Blog Blog

I know, I know, I have been slacking this month. This week, in particular, has been rough as far as the writing and sharing goes, but not without reason! Sure, I have a TON of things to share, but I was slaving away at making those things actually happen (yes, folks, in order to have something to write about, I have to be too busy to write about it. Such is the nature of my life) and then I was actually without computer access for 5 days. Well, not entirely without computer access, but only having cellphone access to my blog makes it pretty difficult to type any entries. (unless you wanted to dechipher them as typed on a cellphone without punctuation and with predicative text with more than a few typos which you know cause even more than a few problems in predicative land plus my thumbs would be sore) Happily I have returned to my routines and virtual connection to the world around me, and it only took two days of sleeping and housework to catch back up to life as I love it. And all of that just in time to love memorial day weekend!

That being said, you can look forward (or avoid entirely, you choose!) to the upcoming blog entries, which I hope will happen in rapid succession over the 3 day weekend.

  • Fourteen pieces of Bacon
  • An Irish Queen
  • Weddings and Dear Friends (or: Why Paris still brings tears to my eyes)
  • Adventures in the North: a marathon weekend
  • Posted with Permission: Generic pictures of other peoples kids that I can force faithful readers to enjoy.

Look at that! 5 whole ideas, wanting refinement and nurturing. If they actually happen, you will be caught up on the Beautiful Moments of May. Of course, my posting their titles kind of binds me to it. Which is why I am doing it. Announcing my goals, inviting my friends to an awareness of my personal expectations, this means I have to actually follow through. So as I hit the "Publish Post" button, and tell the world my plans, knowing that follow through might be sketchy, I have a question for you. Is there a subject here that should be priority 1? What do you actually want to hear about? What piques your interest? Tell me and I may be more encouraged to press forward. It's called validation, and I am not afraid to ask for it right now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

All things considered, life is pretty good.

Is it really May 11th and I only have one post for the month of May? This is absurd! I have so very much to share, including some fantastic stories about my new friends (we shall call them "Lyle and Craig") who are quite possibly the most eccentric and flamboyant and wonderful and loving boys in my ward. Seriously, I couldn't make friends with the mainstream crowd of enrichment attendees and Sunday School teachers. Nope, I gravitate towards convicted felons, former drag queens, and kindred soul-searchers. And my new friends are somehow all three of those things. They will merit their own entry and possibly an entire new blog.

I also have to post pictures of the project that has been taking up all of my time lately. The entry is ready to go, but I can't really reveal it in its entirety until the work is completed and the gift that it is resides in the intended hands of my friend that is getting married this Friday. You will just have to wait.

On top of that, I am headed for Minnesota for a few days just after the wedding. It will be my first time back since last August, and I have a bit of a nervous twitch in my left eye about the whole thing. I am pretty happy where I am at, it didn't transfer with me when I went to MN for two and a half years, will it at least transfer with me when I go for two and a half days?

And speaking of happy, finally, I need to write a post about my job, which is sort of growing on me. Sure every frustration that you have previously read about is still there. My boss is still a blithering idiot, the parents drive me nuts, and there are some children in my classroom that frighten me more than a little. But there are some joys that are coming out along the way, that make the whole ordeal more and more bearable each day.

I started noticing it because of this dream I had the other night, in which I returned to my old school but some of the kids from this school were there. And I was faced with the shocking realization that I really love these kids. Since then, I have been savoring some of the best moments throughout each day. Can you see what's coming? It might be another list!

Moments I love at work:

1. Today, Future Serial Killer and Future Criminal Mastermind sat down and read a book together. They weren't cohearsed, they had the option of any activity in the classroom, and they sat down quietly on the library center carpet and shared a book together. It was model behavior. I love it when kids choose books all by themselves.

2. I have mentioned before that we are reading "Tale of Despereaux" and I repeat to you again, if you haven't read it, you need to. It is beautiful. The kids are getting into it. (Side note: I wish they had never even made the movie of it. I agree with Zack of Carolanne fame. I haven't seen it and I have no intention of seeing it. I am becoming more and more convinced that movies only ruin good books) ANYWAYS. The kids are remembering every bit of the plot and talking about it and making guesses as to what will come next and they are actually understanding it. It's wonderful stuff. Plus, we read the chapter on forgiveness today. I officially became the sappy teacher that cries a little when reading stories out loud. I have never done that before.

3. Today a little girl who shall be referred to as "Homecoming Queen" found a centipede on the playground. She showed it to everyone and tried to count its legs and asked me what it was and marveled over how soft it was. She and her friends named it and tried to bring it back inside after recess so they could keep it as a pet.

4. Meanwhile, another little girl, the "Social Weirdo" (she is an old soul, can sing to you any John Williams movie theme, and frequently recites lines from "All Dogs go to Heaven" and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") found a butterfly, which she correctly identified as a male Monarch (yes, there is a way to tell the difference) and then chased around the playground for a half an hour before she decided to put flowers (read: dandelions) in my hair in an attempt to get the butterfly to come to us. It was a really good recess.

5. During lunch, "Class President" and "Abercrombie Model" (self-explanatory, yes?) used manners. Not only did they say "Please" and "Thank you" without reminders, they never stood up and danced, reached across the table, or belched. They were polite to the other kids at the table, listened to everyone, contributed to conversations that others led, and their whole lunch table didn't have to be asked to quiet down even once. It was more than refreshing. It was encouraging.

6. When the kids turned me into a frog with their magic wands, I asked them if kissing a prince would make me human again. The "Inseparable Best Friends" told me they would have to pre-approve any princes I wanted to kiss. The "Social Clique" girls offered me one of theirs, as long as I returned him after I was done kissing him.

7. There is this little girl in my class that comes part time and has the sweetest disposition. She is so respectful and very smart and generous to the other kids. I can honestly say I have never had a student anything like her. She drew a picture for me over the weekend and gave it to me this morning. It is of a giant heart shaped house and each window has a member of her family peeking through, and me, I am peeking though a window too. You can tell its me because of my hair and my glasses. On the bottom of the picture it says "I love Nancy, To Nancy From ***" I get a lot of pictures from kids. This one is one I will keep.

Right now, they are almost all asleep. Class President is snoring and occasionally trying to run while lying down. Handsome Prince (the one the Social Clique offered me for spell breaking purposes) is mumbling in his sleep, something about "puppy". FCM is drooling, Space Cadet is sleeping with his eyes opened, and it's the only time of day that Tattletale Bully is actually quiet. Astronaut Girl is humming in her sleep. She told me today that when she grows up, she wants to be everything except a football player. I told her that when I was little, I wanted to be everything but a teacher. We laughed and laughed. She understood why it was funny.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Mother's Day Response

For those of you who don't know, my sister posted a blog entry a week or so ago lamenting the upcoming "holiday", and in it she made mention of the perspective I have on the whole fiasco as the preschool teacher that is expected to produce the gobs of paste and glitter that mothers everywhere will be consigned to treasure for the next few weeks until they are forgotten by the developing and cohersed artist and can be discretely disposed of. For those of you who do not have access to her blog, let me sum up: We were raised with a particular distaste for the day. Our distaste for the hallmark-fabricated fiasco is genetic, passed from mother to daughter, in a sarcastic and guilt ridden tradition. It boils down to this. Mom hated it because the whole church production of having various and sundry self-appointed authorities parade to the podium declaring either the definition of motherhood or that their own mother was the very best of moms merely produced guilt in every woman in the congregation who wasn't the mother of that particular speaker. I remember distinctly one mother's day as a 10 or 11 year old when the youth speaker talked about bunny shaped pancakes being the end-all of good motherhood, and my mom asking us after church if we still thought she was a good mom even if her pancakes were not bunny shaped. We as the children in said situation knew quite well that what mom really wanted was peace and quiet and for someone else to do the dishes for once, but we were also being brainwashed by an entire society of teachers (public and primary) that insisted that what mom REALLY wanted was this piece of construction paper on which we had written a poem that someone else wrote, or else on which someone else wrote down the things that we said about moms. Add to that some clay or paste structure in a hideous construction of red and pink, and you have not only met your societal expectation, but promptly destroyed mother's dresser top and jewelry box organization for as long as it takes for her to convince herself that she is not a bad mother if she trashes it. Multiply the inconvenience of the entire process by the number of children she has, and you have, not in fact a celebration of all that mothers do, but a bigger mess for mothers to clean up once you go back to school and leave her alone.

In my sisters, as they have grown up, this tradition of resentment has matured into similar feelings of frustrastion and guilt. It's probably less of the guilt, since they watched mom deal with that and realize that they are not in fact the only target of the inadvertant shaming of the day, but more frustration as they balance 4 kids and a potted plant while trying to keep the toddler from ripping into the chocolate bar that is melting in their purse. In me, the tradition of resentment has matured a little differently. One difference is for obvious reasons. I am not a mother, and yet they still force some form of potted plant on me, which only feels both insulting and fraudulent. I understand the need to offer the paltry plant to all of the women in the congregation, but I reserve the right to refuse it. Do not coherse or manipulate me with statements about how "all women are mothers in some way", it only diminishes the sacrifices that real mothers make. And do not declare that I must accept it on the grounds that someday I might be a mother. To an 18 year old, the statement is sweet and cute, to a 32 year old, it merely rubs salt in a wound freshly opened by the sermons of the day. I have, in the past, received a "mother's day" gift of sorts from a generous student or parent of a student, declaring my contributions to a particular child's education to be worthy of some bit of honor. That I can accept and find gratitude for because of its sincerity and sensitivity. But carrying the generic flower out of sacrament meeting alone is painful. Better to balance it with some number of children and watch it be destroyed by a teething infant than to have the thing make it home safely because I don't in fact have any children that are willing and capable of destroying it.

The other reason for my distaste for the whole production would be evidenced if you had seen me at all today. I have been covered in glitter since 8:53 this morning. You see, it is my duty to produce the pasty thing that your child will be presenting you with this Sunday. I know that the first question anyone will ask is "if you have such a great distaste for it, and conviction that it is worthless, why do you participate?"

Well can you imagine how much worse it would be if I didn't? You mothers that are aggravated by the sticky amorphous thing still sitting on your dresser from last year, how would you judge the teacher that didn't send your child home with anything at all? Admit it, with all of the guilt and fatigue that the day brings, there is still some curiosity as to what will be underneath the newspaper wrapping in your child's bookbag on Friday. There is some pride in the product, as mysterious as it may be, and most of all, there is still some hope that someone will do something that appropriately honors the real sacrifices of motherhood. And if nothing at all comes, you will only question your motherly merits more deeply.

I work with wealthy children. Their parents spend perhaps an hour or two per day with them. Many of them have nannys on top of day care and preschool and weekend babysitters. Part of my job is to produce a scrapbook of sorts (we call it a "portfolio", but I know the truth) that documents their child's development, because they will in fact never see any of it. I get to help five year olds with their first loose tooth, and the big prize at the end of the day is that they get to call their parents when it finally falls out. I will be the first person that they read a book to, all by themselves, and I will have to convince them to read the book again to a frequently unappreciative parent. ("that's nice, johnny, but we are late to meet the sitter") Parents of younger children sign a statement as to whether they want their child's teacher to call them for their first word, their first roll-over or crawl or steps. Some parents request that the teachers don't call, so that they can just lie to themselves, and say that that first milestone happened when they saw it. Others don't understand what the big deal is, just take a picture and email it to them.

What I know is this. The really good mothers, the ones that deserve to be honored on a day all their own, celebrate Mother's Day every time their child learns something new, blows them a kiss, or hands them a dandelion plucked from the front lawn. It doesn't happen just in May. A piece of pottery and a flower from church are nothing in comparison to a bedtime story and that feeling of a baby's head resting right at your chin. It is ridiculous to think that anyone can atone for the hours and years of lost sleep with a carnation or a candy bar. The most priceless gems will never compare in cost to the number of noses wiped and slime stains on your shoulder. And they will never approach the worth of that first giggle and the bandaids sealed with kisses.

The kids in my class are making flower pots that will hold pens for an office desk. This plus the email I send out during lunchtime will be their mother's connection to them throughout a 9-10 hour workday. It's their badge of honor, along with a scrapbook of pictures taken by someone else. Some of the moms in my classroom will treasure it as the only evidence they have of motherhood. Some of the mothers in my classroom will let it sit and collect dust while they do everything in their power to make up for lost time. Some of the mothers in my classroom will trash the thing because it doesn't go with the decor. Each of them will get out of the gift exactly what they put into it.

I wonder if that isn't part of the reason why my own mom resented that junk so much. She could honestly look at it and say "I taught you better stuff than this. That teacher shows you how to paint a flower pot and glue construction paper to popsicle sticks. I teach you the gospel of Jesus Christ" But somehow we kids thought the treasure was in the paste product.

So here I am, the teacher of things painting and paltry, knowing that I will be coated in glitter every day for the next week, in an effort to assist the production of 22 flower pots. I have a budget of $2 per child in my class, and I know perfectly well that they can never approach the potential value of what each parent-child relationship holds. My hope is that the respective mothers will see in it what they can. We are, all of us, lousy at expressing the real value of the relationships in our lives. We have imperfect language and a society that values money spent over moments shared. Whether you are a mom that is away from your children far too often for your liking or a mom that is with them so much you have forgotten how to grocery shop with two hands, take this Sunday with a grain of salt. Open the crumpled newspaper package with care, rave over it's beauty and craftsmanship, then stick it on your dresser and let it collect dust while you rock your baby to sleep and read "Where the Wild Things Are" for 1,973rd time. Be the mom that recognizes the truly valuable moments in life, and instead of making room on your dresser for another clay construction, make room on your rocking chair for an extra pair of arms and legs. We teachers will keep sending you the pictures and the poems. It's your job to figure out why they are treasures. I recommend you start with a slimy kiss and the breakfast in bed tray accidentally spilled all over your stairwell.